Xyza Cruz Bacani
New York, USA/Hong Kong
Street photography and documentary projects about migration and the intersections of labor and human rights
FUJIFILM GFX 50S Camera, X-Pro2 Camera, FUJINON GF32-64mmF4 R LM WR Lens, XF23mmF1.4 R Lens
Xyza Cruz Bacani is a Filipina street and documentary photographer who has been featured in various international media publications. It’s easy to see why, when you learn that her life story is just as inspiring as her photography. Xyza had been working as a domestic worker in Hong Kong for almost a decade before she became interested in photography and started to use the medium to raise awareness of under-reported stories, focusing on migrants and human rights issues. In this Showcase article, Xyza tells us the story behind a series of images she shot in the Philippines.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the photographer.
“The fighting in the city of Marawi might be over, but the devastating aftermath of war remains. Six Muslim women decided to reclaim their lives and identities by returning to an almost forgotten tradition of weaving textiles.”
“After losing their homes during the conflict between the ISIS-inspired Maute group and the government forces, which ravaged the city of Marawi for months, these women struggled as refugees in their own land. Salam Sybil, the eldest of the group, thought that the fighting would only last for few days. She left her son’s dowry in her home when she fled, hoping she could go back after a week. Her son was supposed to be married in June 2017, but the wedding was cancelled. She now accepts that the money she saved for years is lost, and only hopes that her daughter’s law books will be spared.”
“According to Salam, Maranao people would rather work to earn a living than receive handouts. She fears that being a refugee and receiving the same relief goods for seven months is not healthy. Some of the relief goods contain pork, something that they will not eat because it’s against their Islamic beliefs. She believes that although the community feels this insensitivity is a small thing, it still hurts their pride and dignity.”
“In connection with the government’s announced plans to reconstruct the city, martial law has been extended for another year. Refugee movement has been restricted, making it difficult for them to find work and earn a living. In addition, most refugees have not been able to inspect what remains of their homes and property. Although Maranao people often use verbal agreements and honor each other’s words, these women are nervous because they do not have legal documents in place to prove that they own their homes and land."
“A livelihood program in the capitol, where most of the people fled to, was introduced to them by a non-profit group. Textile weaving is a tradition that was practiced by Maranao Muslims for generations. Their intricate designs done with back-strap looms signaled an advanced civilization and culture. It’s a disappearing practice, but the women refugees trained themselves without pay, just to help them forget the turmoil around them. Now, they are able to earn an honest and decent living.”
“Soraida Bato, an Arabic teacher and a breast cancer patient wants to go back. She believes that her home is still intact, after seeing it in a photo. It’s harder for her to stay at the overcrowded refugee camps because of the cancer. In weaving, she says, she is able to forget the pain.”
“Naidah and Salam Abdullah are sisters who bonded when the conflict began. They share a room with other refugees in the center, together with their family members. In spite of losing everything, they feel lucky to have their families with them. Salam’s daughter LJ wants to be a soldier in the future to defend her land and family. For Jalilah, a young Muslim woman, learning textile weaving convinced her that she is strong enough to accomplish anything if she applies herself.”
"These women find temporary peace in every thread they weave together. Working together heals them and gives them back a sense of dignity, as if they were rebuilding the city of Marawi one thread at a time.”
Xyza Bacani is a FUJIFILM-compensated professional photographer.
To see more of Xyza’s work, visit her website